The Portrait of a Lady by Khushwant Singh

 

THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY –THE THREE PHASES OF AUTHOR’S RELATIONSHIP WITH HIS GRANDMOTHER IN THE STORY  OF THE PORTRAITA LADY AND JUSTIFICATION OF THE TITLE  OF THE STORY THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY

 

SUMMARY OF THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY :

  • Three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother in the story  The Portrait of a Lady

The author of the Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother spent long years with each other. The author of The Portrait of a Lady lived close by his grandmother since his childhood. However, the relationship between the author of The Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother changed widely with the growing up of the author. In the story The Portrait of a Lady we see three phases of relationship that the author shared with his grandmother. This relationship was shared between the author and his grandmother in the story The Portrait of a Lady  till he went abroad to study for five years.

The first phase in the relationship between the author and his grandmother in the story The Portrait of a Lady : 

The author’s parents of the story The Portrait of a Lady went to live in the city. They left the author of The Portrait of a Lady along with his grandmother when he was a mere boy. It was at this time that the author of The Portrait of a Ladyand his grandmother shared a close bondage. A very good friendship developed between the author of The Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother. Every morning the grandmother of the story The Portrait of a Lady would wake up the author and dress him up for school. The grandmother of The Portrait of a Lady recited her morning prayer in a sing song way. During the whole time the grandmother bathed and dressed the author of The Portrait of a Lady up with the hope that her grandson would learn it.

But her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady heard her only because he loved her voice. After dressing him (author of The Portrait of a Lady) up she would bring his wooden slate and his red pen and his small ink pot made of earth. Every day before going to school she (grandmother of the story The Portrait of a Lady) used to wash the wooden slate and then plaster with yellow chalk. She would tie all these in a bundle and give the bundle to her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady. The author of The Portrait of a Lady used to have breakfast on stale chapatti which was spread with a little butter and sugar on it. After breakfast the author of The Portrait of a Lady left for school with her grandmother.

The old lady or the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady always carried several stale chapatis with her for the village dogs. She always accompanied her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady to school as the school was attached to the temple. The priest gave lessons to the author of The Portrait of a Lady and other children on alphabets and morning prayer. The author of The Portrait of a Lady used to sit on the verandah along with other students and sing  the alphabets or recite  the prayer in chorus. During this time the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady sat inside the temple and  read scriptures. The author of The Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother always walked back home together.

The second phase in the relationship between the author and his grandmother in the story The Portrait of a Lady :

But this friendship between the grandmother and her grandson in the story The Portrait of a Lady did not last long. When in the story The Portrait of a Lady the author’s parents were well settled in the city, they sent for him and his grandmother. It is here in the city where the second phase of relationship between the author and his grandmother in the story The Portrait of a Lady begins. This phase in the story The Portrait of a Lady shows a gradual distance developing between the grandmother and her grandson. However, the author of The Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother still shared the room. Now the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady did not follow him to school anymore. The author of The Portrait of a Lady was now admitted in an English school. The author of The Portrait of a Lady went to school in a motor bus. As there were no street dogs to be fed the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady took to feeding sparrows in the courtyard.

As the years rolled by the grandmother and the grandson (the author of The Portrait of a Lady) saw less of each other. For sometime the grandmother continued to wake up her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady and get him ready for school. On the author’s (The Portrait of a Lady) return from school she would ask about the day’s lesson. The author of The Portrait of a Lady told her English words, Western science, Archimedes’ Principal, the world being round and so on. The grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady felt unhappy as she no longer could help him with his lessons. One day the author of The Portrait of a Lady told his grandmother that he he had joined music classes. This displeased the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady. This is because the author’s (The Portrait of a Lady) grandmother believed, decent people has no business with music. Although the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady made no verbal protest, she talked rarely with her grandson since then.

The third phase in the relationship between the author and his grandmother in the story The Portrait of a Lady :

The third phase of the relationship between the author and his grandmother in the story The Portrait of a Lady begins with his joining the University. The relationship between the author of The Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother lost its intimacy. The author of The Portrait of a Lady was given a room of his own which shattered the common link between the two. The grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady accepted this seclusion without any protest.  At this time the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady used to feed the sparrows. The author’s grandmother (The Portrait of a Lady) rarely talked to anyone. The sparrows use to sit on all over the body of the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady. They were on the shoulder, on the legs,  and even sat on the head of the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady. For the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady this half an hour seemed to be the happiest moment. Then came the time when the grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady took the decision of going abroad for higher studies.

At this time the author of The Portrait of a Lady was without a doubt that his grandmother would become upset at his decision. This was because the author of the story The Portrait of a Lady would have to stay away from her for five long years. But the author of The Portrait of a Lady was surprised to see his grandmother was not at all sentimental. Rather she came to see off the author of The Portrait of a Lady at the railway station. But the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady neither did talk nor show any emotion. The lips of the author’s grandmother (The Portrait of a Lady) were busy telling the prayers, her thoughts lost in prayers and her fingers busy counting the beads of her rosary, while she kissed his forehead.

In these three phases of the author’s relationship with his grandmother in the story The Portrait of a Lady we see how the intimate bondage between the two loosens with the passage of time. Although the love never fades but time and situation has drifted the author of The Portrait of a Lady away from his grandmother. And the old lady (grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady) instead of complaining has very stoically accepted her life of seclusion.

 

  • JUSTIFICATION OF THE TITLE OF THE STORY THE PORTRAIT OF A LADY :

In his short story “ The Portrait of a Lady “ , Khushwant Singh had pen-portrayed his grandmother with whom he shared a very intimate bondage since his childhood. The parents of the author of The Portrait of a Lady shifted to the city leaving the boy to live with his grandmother. The friendship between the two – the author of The Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother began since then. Every morning the grandmother woke up the author of The Portrait of a Lady. The grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady then dressed him up for school. All the while she bathed and dressed her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady, she recited her morning prayers in a sing song manner. She did this with a hope that her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady would learn it. But the boy or the author of The Portrait of a Lady heard her only because he loved her voice. She then fetched the boy’s (author of The Portrait of a Lady) wooden slate which she had already washed and plastered with yellow coloured chalk, his small earthen ink pot and his red pen. All these she used to tie up in a bundle and give to her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady. The priest gave the author of The Portrait of a Lady along with other children lessons on alphabets and morning prayer. The author of The Portrait of a Lady along with other students used to sit on the verandah and sing the alphabets and recite the prayer in chorus. During this time his(the author of The Portrait of a Lady) grandmother remained inside the temple and read scripture.The author of The Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother always walked back home together.

The second phase of the relationship between the grandmother and the grandson in the story The Portrait of a Lady, began when the author’s parents after settling down in the city called them there. Here a change in the relationship between the grandmother and her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady is witnessed. Although the author of The Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother still shared the room, a distance between them gradually developed. She continued to wake up the author of The Portrait of a Lady and get him ready for school but did not follow him to school any more. The author of The Portrait of a Lady went to an English school.in a motor bus.  As the years passed by the author of The Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother saw less of each other. On his return from school she would ask the author of The Portrait of a Lady about the day’s lesson. But she (grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady) felt unhappy as she could not help him in his present lessons.

She or the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady did not believe in the Western education taught in his school.  She felt disturbed the day she learnt her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady would be getting music lessons. For the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady, music had no business with decent people. She though did not protest verbally, talked to her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady rarely.

The third phase in the relationship between the author and his grandmother in the story The Portrait of a Lady, saw a more distant relationship between the two. When the author of The Portrait of a Lady, joined the University, he was given a room of his own. This completely shattered the relationship between the two (the author of The Portrait of a Lady and his grandmother). But she (grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady) accepted this seclusion quietly. The part of the day when the author’s (The Portrait of a Lady) grandmother relaxed for some time was in the afternoon. During this time she or the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady fed the sparrows.

After five years when the author of The Portrait of a Lady returned, his grandmother went to receive him at the station. But now too she or the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady had no time to speak. Although she clasped her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady in her arms her lips continued reciting the prayers. Even on that day her happiest moment were not with her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady but with the sparrows. The grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady fed them longer than she did on other days. The author’s grandmother (The Portrait of a Lady) sang of the homecoming warriors. It was the first time ever the author of The Portrait of a Lady saw her grandmother doing anything else other than reciting her prayers. The next morning he or the author of The Portrait of a Lady found his grandmother ill. Before anybody understood her (grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady) lips stopped reciting the prayers and the rosary fell from her lifeless fingers.

Khushwant Singh, the author of The Portrait of a Lady, draws a pen-picture of his deceased grandmother who was a lady of strict discipline and moral values. Her distance with her grandson or the author of The Portrait of a Lady  gave her deep pain, but it was her dignity that prevented her to protest.Although she or the grandmother of the author of The Portrait of a Lady did not protest, she secluded herself from them and spent her times in reciting prayers, spinning the wheel and feeding the sparrows.

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